What is high-fructose corn syrup? What are the health concerns?

Answers from Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D.

High-fructose corn syrup is a common sweetener in sodas and fruit-flavored drinks. As use of high-fructose corn syrup has increased, so have levels of obesity and related health problems, leading some to wonder if there's a connection.

Research has shown that high-fructose corn syrup is chemically similar to table sugar. Controversy exists, however, about whether or not the body handles high-fructose corn syrup differently than table sugar.

At this time, there's insufficient evidence to say that high-fructose corn syrup is any less healthy than other types of sweeteners. We do know, however, that too much added sugar — not just high-fructose corn syrup — can contribute unwanted calories that are linked to health problems, such as weight gain, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels. All of these boost your risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar from any source, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar. That's about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

If you're concerned about your health, the smart play is to cut back on added sugar, regardless of the type.

Sep. 27, 2012